THE ROW by J.R. Johansson


Age Range: 14 - 18
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A girl learns a devastating truth.

Riley Beckett’s father has been in prison for over 10 years. Convicted of murder and sentenced to death, he still maintains his innocence. But after every possible appeal falls through, Riley visits him and her father divulges a terrible truth: he did it. He’s as guilty as they come. Reeling from the revelation and desperate for clarity, Riley searches for the truth about her family’s past even as a copycat murder seems to throw doubt on her father’s conviction. The resulting mystery is a tad convoluted and ultimately a bit of a letdown, as readers will have little trouble connecting the dots. A distracting relationship with hot Latino teen Jordan Vega feels set up largely to provide drama via Jordan’s police-chief father. The couple follows the clues and goes through the mystery motions, but the kicker is they don’t end up solving the case—it’s largely done for them. The murderer’s motives for doing the deed and coming clean make sense, but that’s no substitute for a well-earned “mystery solved.” This decision hamstrings the novel, reframing Riley’s quest for truth as aimless flailing by an understandably distraught teenage girl. Riley’s race and ethnicity go unmentioned; absent markers to the contrary, readers will likely assume she is white.

A great hook with deeply unsatisfying follow-through.(Mystery. 14-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 11th, 2016
ISBN: 978-0-374-30025-8
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 2016


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